New Zealand proposes pioneering scheme to make farmers pay for emissions

New Zealand may soon make history with a world-first scheme to make farmers pay for greenhouse gas emissions from livestock in a bid to tackle the climate crisis.  

This would cover methane released through cow’s flatulence and nitrous oxide emitted through livestock’s urine in the agriculturally rich country.  

With 10 million cows and 26 million sheep, nearly half of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, according to the Ministry for Environment. Methane in particular is a problem, making up three quarters of agricultural emissions.  

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters on Tuesday the proposed plans would give farmers a competitive advantage, unlocking a price premium for climate friendly products.  

hills beside lake

‘No other country in the world has yet developed a system for pricing and reducing agricultural emissions, so our farmers are set to benefit from being first movers,’ Ardern said. ‘Cutting emissions will help New Zealand farmers to not only be the best in the world but the best for the world.’  

The plans would also put the country on track to reduce methane by 10% in 2030, compared to 2017 levels.  

Farmers, who met the threshold for herd size and fertiliser use, would begin paying a levy for emissions from 2025 every one to three years.  

The government has based plans on recommendations made during the He Waka Eke Noa scheme – a coalition of the government and Māori and farming leaders.  

This was created to find a solution to pricing greenhouse gas emissions at a farming level, after opposition to the Emissions Trading Scheme which requires businesses to pay for each tonne of emissions they create.  

However, news of the proposed scheme has been met with criticism from some farmers who are concerned they could lose 20% of profitability.  

National president of lobbying group Federated Farmers and dairy farmer, Andrew Hoggard, said: ‘Federated Farmers is deeply unimpressed with the government’s take on the He Waka Eke Noa proposal and is concerned for our members’ futures. We didn’t sign up for this.’ 

Hoggard believes farmland will be used to plant trees, driving farmers away and having an economic impact on the small towns which rely on them. 

He said: ‘Our plan was to keep farmers farming. Now they’ll be selling up so fast you won’t even hear the dogs barking on the back of the ute as they drive off.’  

Photo by Hannah Wright


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